The meaning of Pesach and the exodus from Egypt [is as follows]:

As you know, the early [generations of mankind] forced the divine presence to ascend [out of the physical world] to the seventh heaven, because of [their] sins. (Bereishit Rabba 19:7; Etz Chaim 36:2)

Adam and Eve caused the divine presence to ascend from the physical world to the first [i.e., lowest] heaven when they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Cain caused the divine presence to ascend from the first to the second heaven when he killed his brother, Abel. The generation of Enoch caused the divine presence to ascend to the third heaven when they introduced idolatry into the world. The generation of the flood caused the divine presence to ascend to the fourth heaven because of their social and sexual sins. The generation of the tower of Babel caused the divine presence to ascend to the fifth heaven by declaring war on G‑d. The generation of Sodom caused the divine presence to ascend to the sixth heaven by their social sins. The Egyptians of Abraham's generation caused the divine presence to ascend to the seventh heaven.

...Adam attempted to repent for and rectify his sin.

The [souls of the] Jews of the generation that was in exile in Egypt were derived from the drops of semen that Adam emitted during the 130 years [he was separated from his wife]. (Eruvin 18b; Zohar 1:55a)

After Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, G‑d informed them that they and their progeny would eventually die. In remorse for bringing death into the world, Adam attempted to repent for and rectify his sin. As part of this process, and because he reasoned that there was no purpose in bringing children into the world if they were destined to die anyway, he separated from Eve. It was only 130 years later that he realized the faultiness of his logic, by losing an argument with Lamech's wives. During these 130 years of celibacy, Adam apparently was not able to control himself completely, and committed the sin of wasteful emission of seed.

They had previously been incarnated as the generation of the flood, who used to also spill [their] seed on the ground, inasmuch as they were derived from the same origin. (Zohar 1:56b, 66b)

The generation of the flood was the first incarnation of the Adam's wasted drops. Since they were the first "generation" of this ill-conceived seed, their spiritual makeup was powerfully predisposed toward the same mentality that produced them. They therefore committed the same sin that this mentality led to.

They were eventually wiped out. This is the mystical meaning of the verse (Gen. 6:5), "And G‑d saw that man's evil was great," for wasteful emission of seed is called "evil," and one who wastefully emits his seed is also called "evil," as it is stated in the Zohar (1:57a) with reference to the verse, "the wicked will not abide with You." (Psalms 5:5)

It follows that the generation of the flood were veritably Adam's evil. This is also the mystical meaning of [G‑d's statement before the flood], "I will wipe out the man that I have created." (Gen. 6:7)

Inasmuch as the name Adam means simply "man," the phrase "And G‑d saw that man's evil was great" may be read, "And G‑d saw that Adam's evil was great," meaning that G‑d saw that [this generation, the physical embodiment of the souls produced by] Adam's evil [emission of seed], was [sinning] greatly [just as he did].

Similarly, the phrase in the following verse, "I will wipe out the man that I have created" may be read, "I will wipe out Adam, who I [personally] created," meaning that G‑d was planning to wipe out the generation because it was an embodiment of the sin of Adam himself.

They were later reincarnated as the generation of the dispersion. [This generation is also referred to as Adam's progeny, as it is written, "And G‑d descended] to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built," meaning the direct progeny of Adam, reincarnations of his own seminal emissions. (Gen.11:5)

Here, too, "the sons of man" can be read, "the sons of Adam."

[They were only figuratively his "sons,"] since they derived from seminal emissions of the male without the female. They also sinned.

…it is specifically the holiest souls that evil attempts to grasp

After [these two incarnations,] they had to be purified. For as I have already told you (Likutei Torah in the writings of the Arizal on Ezekiel), they were holy and powerful souls, but evil's grasp of them spoiled them. Once they would be purified and be rid of the sickness of impurity, they would be manifest as holy souls. As you also know, it is specifically the holiest souls that evil attempts to grasp.

We can perhaps understand this as follows. Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch states that someone who has never committed the sin of "blemishing the covenant [of circumcision]" on some level cannot truly relate to the inner dimension of the Torah. Now, the most basic meaning of "blemishing the covenant" is wasteful emission of seed, but it can refer also to any sexual aberration, and more subtly, to any lapse of divine consciousness resulting from being seduced by some foreign promise of spiritual fulfillment. After all, wasteful emission of seed and sexual aberration in general is a misdirection of a person's potential into the wrong channels, and focusing on anything other than G‑d is essentially the same thing. The only difference is that in the first case we are talking about reproductive and/or romantic energy while in the second case we are talking about mental or creative energy; in either case, the potential that should have been used to propagate and promulgate divine consciousness throughout reality has been squandered.

But what causes a person to do this? If, as the Kabbala insists, we are all "hard-wired" to fulfill our purpose on earth, to make reality into G‑d's home by propagating divine consciousness throughout it, why would anyone do anything contrary to that end? The answer is that evil temporarily succeeds in convincing the person that the sin it is enticing him to commit will in fact serve this purpose, that the "high" he will get from committing the sin (or from diverting his attention from G‑d momentarily) will enhance his life, re-energize him, re-inspire him, or in some other way accomplish something in short order that it would take a long time to accomplish through the normal channels. Evil seduces us with a shortcut, because it knows that we know that the path to true, holy self-refinement is a long, hard, and tedious one. Evil plays on and capitalizes on our divine imperative and our impatience and frustration over how long it takes us to make real progress.

…anyone who has never fallen for this ruse...cannot really relate to the inner dimension of the Torah.

Hence, Rabbi Shalom Dovber said that anyone who has never fallen for this ruse in some way - even if only in a very abstract, refined way - cannot really relate to the inner dimension of the Torah. This is because the inner dimension of the Torah addresses not the do's and don'ts that the revealed dimension of the Torah addresses, but the more profound issues in life, such as "what is the meaning of life" and "why is there suffering in the world," etc. If a person has never been bothered and frustrated by these questions enough to fall for the bait of a shortcut to their solution, the inner dimension of the Torah will not speak to him.

Now, all souls come [into reality] with states of chesed and gevura, which are derived from daat. Coupling is a function of daat, this being the mystical meaning of the phrase, "And Adam knew his wife Eve." (Gen. 4:1) Coupling is referred to as "knowledge" because the seminal drop originates in daat [literally translated as "knowledge"].

[This is] also [true of] Moses' generation, as is known, for Moses personified daat and thus his generation was a generation of daat, as we have explained elsewhere. (Etz Chaim 32:2) However, they were drawn to evil.

This is evident from the fact that they suffered the oppression of the Egyptian exile and slavery. Some deficiency of theirs caused a blockage in the flow of divine beneficence to them.

Thus, the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile was to purify these souls. This is why they were subjected to such oppression, and [the Egyptians] "made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks," corresponding to the mortar and bricks the generation of the dispersion used [to build the tower of Babel]. Understand this.

Of the generation of the dispersion, it is written: "They said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.' They had bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar." (Gen. 11:3) Thus, the Jews' suffering through mortar and bricks atoned for their sins with mortar and bricks in their previous incarnation.

Now, since [their] sin was only with respect to daat - for the sparks of their souls originated therein - Moses therefore knew that [their] exile also derived from there.

For, as mentioned above, and as the Arizal presently states, it is possible to understand the nature of the blemish being produced by examining the effect it produces. The fact that the Jews were being punished with mortar and bricks indicated that they were atoning for the sin of the generation of the dispersion, who sinned with mortar and bricks. And that generation had sinned by "blemishing the covenant," which is a function of daat, the sefira of coupling.

...evil is able to derive sustenance from this blemish...

To explain: whenever the Jewish people sin here below and thereby cause some flaw in some divine attribute or supernal sefira (G‑d forbid), evil is able to derive sustenance from this blemish and therefore attaches itself to that point.

We may envision evil as a disease that attacks a weakened immune system.

This is the secret to [understanding] the Egyptian exile, for Egypt and the impurity it embodied derived sustenance from daat. This is particularly so in light for what I have taught you, namely, that Pharaoh and Egypt are positioned in opposition to the supernal neck, which is the back of the supernal daat. This should suffice.

Daat is manifested in the body in the cerebellum, which is located underneath and at the back of the brain, near the neck. The word for "Pharaoh," as we have noted, permutes to spell the word for "the neck" [in Hebrew, "ha-oref"].

Clearly, this exile resulted from all the divine beneficence [that flows through daat] being siphoned off to Pharaoh and Egypt. Therefore, the Jews of that generation were subject to them. But, as you already know, when there is a flaw above due to the sins of the generation below, the divine energies depart, ascending [back to their source] in order that the powers of evil not derive [too much] sustenance from them.

When the divine beneficence is diverted from its natural flow, this "trips a switch" in the spiritual mechanism of creation that shuts of the valve of divine beneficence.

I have explained this to you with regard to why Zeir Anpin is at first only six extremities and does not ten become full [sefirot, i.e., a partzuf] until after the rectification process. (Etz Chaim 11:6) Similarly, at that time [i.e., of the Egyptian exile], Zeir Anpin reverted to its original state, that of "three folded within three." We always refer to this state as "the first impregnation." It returned to the womb of Imma, and was not revealed outside.

Rabbi Meir Poppers insists that the statement that Zeir Anpin returned to the womb of Imma must not be taken literally. Rather, Zeir Anpin remained a full, mature partzuf, but was informed only by the same level of mentality it possessed when it was in utero. This mentality is called in the Zohar "three folded within three," i.e., chochma-bina-daat concealed within chesed-gevura-tiferet and chesed-gevura-tiferet concealed within netzach-hod-yesod. The last triplet represents the autonomous functioning of the body, which is essentially what is functioning during pregnancy. Physically, this is reflected in the fact that the embryo is postured in the crouched fetal position, its head bent into the knees. This is also why the Pesach sacrifice was to be offered with "its head on its knees and on its innards." (Ex. 12:9)

Thus, we see that transgression in this world causes a blemish in the upper worlds, which backlashes as a withdrawal of divine consciousness and beneficence in order to prevent evil from taking the opportunity to siphon off this energy for itself. This "exile" of the divine presence is an immature mentality that must be reconstructed and re-matured in order to restore the optimal consciousness; this is the process of redemption.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Pri Etz Chaim (Shaar Chag HaMatzot); subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.